Last month I, alongside Jeff Giesea, Jim Hoft, and Chris Barron, organized Wake Up!, the LGBT party at the Republican National Convention. At the event, I also premiered my “Twinks4Trump” photo series. Our event was a huge success, having booked some incredible speakers, and it sold out within 24 hours; similarly, my photo series has been making the rounds in liberal and conservative publications alike.
Since then, I have been taken aback by the spin certain media outlets have put on both the event and my photography. In Death and Taxes, Jamie Peck said of my conservative beliefs, “It’s easy for any progressive-minded person to feel sad that someone so beautiful could harbor such rotten ideology.” While I appreciate the compliment about my appearance, I could not help but feel disturbed at the notion that my looks, much less my sexuality, should determine my political views. I cannot help but think of another word that begins with B that connotes the intolerance of the opinions of others. The view that my sexuality should determine my beliefs was shared by Huffington Post Queer Voices editor JamesMichael Nichols. He went so far as to post a call to action, condemning any person or publication sharing or writing about my last photo series, for no reason other than my political beliefs. The hypocrisy of someone who is supposed to be representing “queer voices” working to silence a queer voice seems entirely lost on this editor.
One Village Voice columnist said that he was so dismayed by the mere spectacle of our gay conservative event that he claims to have run outside in the middle of the night crying and wandering the streets until he took solace in a group of liberal protesters. Give me a break. You were drinking vodka cranberries in a room full of gay guys while Bruce Springsteen played in the background. Being gay and conservative are not mutually exclusive, and the media and society in general would do well to consider the following myths:
1. Being Gay Defines the Entirety of Our Existence
Gay people do not speak with a single voice. We are like any other subset of society, a collection of voices with a vast diversity of opinion. There is no single set gay platform or ideology. To suggest otherwise is patronizing. The most recent Democratic National Committee email leak showcases this patronizing idea when the committee pandered to gay voters with Kathy Griffin and remarked that the “good gays” would applaud the attempt. Similarly, comedian Bill Maher suggested on his cable TV show that perhaps I and the other organizers of the LGBTrump event were “confused” and needed “gay conversion therapy.” Fascinating that these days, a straight white comedian has the moral authority — not to mention the internal experiences — to tell myself and others how to be “correctly” gay.
2. We’re Conservatives Because Our Parents Were
My father’s reaction when I came out as gay and conservative: “very poor business decisions.” Both of my parents are liberal. My mother is a left-leaning artist and my father recites the John Oliver show as gospel. To be sure, there are gay conservatives who have adopted their parents’ beliefs, but the media needs to stop infantilizing the gay community and respect that we, like anyone else, will come to our own beliefs by virtue of debate and reading. I happened to develop my beliefs while studying political strategy under Walter Russell Mead at one of this nation’s best institutions.
3. Conservatives Are Predisposed to Bigotry
This is perhaps the most ironic of myths, as the very essence of bigotry is to make sweeping generalizations. If you believe that all conservatives are bigots, you may as well say that David Duke is proof that all white people are neo-Nazis. My good friend Alex Chalgren, who is the president of Students for Trump, happens to be black and gay. I have never been met with more intolerance and vitriol than I have from the left, particularly the members who hide behind the internet anonymity of social media: One shining example of liberal tolerance recently declared that I was “an absolute disgrace and traitor to the LGBT community.” Others on the left have gone so far as to send me death threats — fortunately, they do not believe in gun ownership, so I don’t feel that threatened.
4. Gay Conservatives Can’t Be Fun
Comedy is about playing with the status quo and turning iconic staples into absurd statements of satire. (My Twinks4Trump series of photographs makes that point patently clear.) Liberals love doing that too, but only as long as they control the means and platforms by which that can be done. Don’t worry, there are more and more gay people every day who are standing up to politically correct suppression and hypocrisy and saying, “Wow. Are you guys actually trying to police thought?”
5. There are Very Few Gay Conservatives
The first time I attended the Conservative Political Action Conference, I was reluctant to come out to fellow conservatives. After all, I was led to believe that there are very few gay conservatives. At an after-party, and after a few martinis, I casually dropped the informaiton among the conservative crowd. I was not only embraced, but an overwhelming majority at the party actually said that they were gay or bisexual. There is a misconception that all gay people are all “liberal” or “progressive.” Yes, many are, but there are far more gay conservatives than you think. Speaking with a few of the twinkie young conservatives at our Wake Up! party, I asked “So, are you guys gay?” One of them said he was straight, and the other two slowly and almost uneasily, said they were gay. Then literally everyone around them said “Oh, awesome!” — and they immediately loosened up and one of them complemented my outfit (rightly so — I was dressed very well, I’m very fashionable). The stereotype that gays are met with aversion by conservatives is not only untrue, it’s harmful.
Gay conservatives and younger conservatives in general consider freedom to be paramount to American society; we are against oppressive governments and against oppressive ideologies. Not allowing yourself to be open to other ideas is admitting that you are not capable of educated response or opinion; a step further, blindly attacking those with ideas that differ to your own is Orwellian aggression. For me, conservatism represents freedom, including the freedom to be whomever I want without fear of being excoriated for my political views.
I was moved and inspired by Peter Thiel’s speech at the Republican convention, where he said, “I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all, I am proud to be an American.” And like Thiel, I accept that I may not agree with all the planks of any party’s platform. (Note to Democrats: That’s called freedom of thought. You should try it sometime.) Gay conservatives are proud of our country. We are working to make it better and more inclusive. Shouldn’t you be too?